DON'T LET PROOFREADING THROW YOU
4 tips for fast, easy, error-free proofreading
First published on RetailOnlineIntegration.com blog March 2014
© 2014 Susan J. McIntyre
PATIENT: "Doc, it’s a lot of trouble to proofread, and we end up with errors in the catalog anyway. Can we just stop proofing and use spell-check instead?"
CATALOG DOCTOR: "No. Take proofreading seriously. It's important for your brand (errors are bad for your image); for customer service (errors annoy customers, causing complaints); for profits (errors cost you credits and reships); and for sales (errors confuse or irritate customers, losing you orders).
Proofreading needs and deserves to be done right. And with the right system, you can make it easy on your team, catch all the errors and inconsistencies, and avoid all the cost and logistics problems that errors can cause. Here are 4 tips."
#1. Use several proofreaders, one for each proofing category.
It's nearly impossible for a single proofreader to catch everything — attention gets divided and proofing steps missed. But with a team, each member can focus on just one proofing category. Plus the entire team can proof at once, so the whole job is done sooner. Try this team plan:
- PHOTO AUDITOR checks that each photo matches that product and copy, and that the latest version got placed. Example: "That buckle was changed from nickel to brass, so yes, this is the latest Photoshopped version".
- PRODUCT COPY AUDITOR should be someone familiar enough with the products to catch errors, omissions and changes. Example "Wait, we moved the zipper from the back to the side — we need to fix the copy to match."
- SKU/PRICE AUDITOR checks against the latest product price sheet that all the product numbers, prices, colors and sizes are correct.
- WEB COMPARISON AUDITOR types every sku into the website quick-search box to ensure that product will actually come up (sometimes the catalog won't match the web — example: the catalog has a hyphen in the number, but the web doesn't, so the website quick-search won't work). The Web Comparison Auditor also double-checks that the prices, sizes, colors are consistent from print to web, flagging any inconsistencies so they can be fixed in whichever channel is wrong.
- ENGLISH AUDITOR. Do run spellcheck first — but remember that spell checking can't catch all a human proofreader can catch. Like the difference between "their" and "there". You need a well-read person to notice weirdnesses, confusing constructions, missing words and more.
- STYLE SHEET AUDITOR checks that product data comes in the approved order, that prices are aligned according to style sheet guidelines, that keylines are not too fat or thin, that the fonts are correct, that trademark symbols appear where they're supposed to, and anything else to ensure the catalog matches style sheet guidelines.
- DECISION MAKER reviews all changes from the proofing team, and OKs or nixes each recommendation before passing the full set of changes back to the creative/production department.
#2. Proof again versus the errors/changes list.
The proofing team needs to proof all changed pages against the original list of changes sent to the creative/production department to be sure all changes have been made, and made correctly.
#3. Keep your style sheet updated.
Were new decisions made during this catalog's proofing process? For example, did a new manager decide to always add a comma before the "and" in a list (feelings run high on the "yes-use-comma" versus "no-don't-use-comma" debate). Be sure that new rules get added to the style sheet for next time.
#4. CALL AND CLICK.
Always actually call the 800 number, and other phone numbers to be absolutely sure the numbers are correct and still work (OK, it may seem silly, but it will avoid disaster and yes, I’ve seen disaster happen that could have been avoided by a simple call). And click on any URLs that are listed including the main one on your front cover, just to double-check that the right pages come up.